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Baseball Can Put Student Athletes at Risk for Multiple Injuries

Proper stretching, cross-training can safeguard students from injury

Zunkiewicz HSTROY, Ohio (April 8, 2019) – Baseball may be known as America’s favorite pastime, but it can deliver a myriad of physical injuries for adolescents playing the sport.

“Overuse injuries are extremely common in baseball, and they’re due to the repetitive nature of the game,” said Mark Zunkiewicz, MD, an orthopedic surgeon with Premier Orthopedics. “Especially in throwers, we see a lot of overuse injuries to the shoulder and elbow.”

The majority of injuries in baseball happen to an athlete’s shoulder, arm or elbow. It’s important to understand the different injuries and the symptoms that may suggest a problem is developing, said Dr. Zunkiewicz, who practices with Premier Physician Network. The following are some of the most common:

Muscle strains – Baseball’s repetitive activity can place high stress on certain muscle groups. This can cause muscle strains, which are partial tears that are graded from one to three based on their severity. Grade one is when the muscle has been stretched, grade two is a partial tear and grade three is a complete tear.

Labral tear – A labral tear is a disruption to the structure surrounding the socket part of the shoulder, which is also known as the glenoid. The labrum provides stability to the shoulder, which exhibits symptoms of instability when it is compromised. 

Dead arm syndrome – Various injuries to the shoulder can lead to what is known as dead arm syndrome. This injury is most commonly seen in throwing athletes or those who use their arm in a motion above their head. It is usually caused by a labral tear or a rotator cuff tear in the shoulder. It causes athletes, specifically pitchers, to have decreased accuracy and/or velocity in their throwing.

Thrower’s elbow – Medial epicondylitis, or thrower’s elbow, is an inflammatory process inside an athlete’s elbow by which the ligaments and tendons become inflamed by repetitive use. It can also be caused by an athlete using an incorrect throwing technique.

UCL elbow strain – Similar to thrower’s elbow, a UCL elbow strain is caused when the ligament on the inside part of the elbow is stretched or partially torn. This usually occurs over time, but can also come on suddenly. A thrower notices this when pain on the inside of their elbow causes decreased velocity and control.

The best way to reduce a student athlete’s risk for these injuries is to make sure they engage in proper stretching prior to practicing or playing a game. It’s also important that students and parents abide by guidelines outlined by physicians at the time of injury, Dr. Zunkiewicz said.

Players should also take seriously industry-wide guidelines that restrict how often and how much an athlete should pitch. Age-appropriate pitch counts take into account the age of a student and the maturity of the muscles they are using. An eight-year-old may only be allowed to pitch 50 times in a game whereas a 17-year-old may be allotted up to 100 pitches.

“I think coaches are becoming more aware that they can’t pitch their athletes every day,” he said. “There are certain restrictions with a growing athlete that they need to follow, and parents are becoming more aware of it, too.”

Perhaps the most beneficial thing a student athlete can do is to take a break from the sport in which they hope to excel and cross train in other areas. Often parents and teens believe that engaging in one sport year around is the only way their child will get better at it, but that’s not always the case.

“Some studies have shown that cross training is very helpful to the overall efficiency and excellence in a certain sport,” Dr. Zunkiewicz said.

For more information about baseball injuries or to find a Premier Physician Network physician near you, visit www.PremierPhysicianNet.com.

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